N-TYPE, FLEET AIR ARM

 

Type N, FAA, tropical flying helmet

Stores Ref. No. -

 

For many years this type of Fleet Air Arm flying helmet was, and by many is still being considered and referred to as the naval version of the Type D.

In fact, it incorporates many characteristics and features known from the RAF's Type D, with the most significant being the bulbous zipped up earphone compartments capable of accommodating both electronic and Gosport communication.

It represents, though, the first "all-navy" helmet in production, hence the correct designation should be (according to a well known expert collector) "Type N flying helmet".

Its construction is based on a cotton shell with a satin lining trimmed with felt at the brow and chin strap. The latter is fastened by a Bennett buckle and there are provisions to attach either a Type D oxygen mask (or similar microphone carrier masks) or the later Type E, Type E* or Type G masks. This specimen comes from a very early production batch which is evidenced by the leather fore and aft goggle retainers affixed in opposite directions.

 

Mk IVb flying goggles

Stores Ref. No. 22C/167

 

The Mk IV series of flying goggles tried to restore aircrew confidence in such equipment after the disappointment experienced with the Mk III and Mk IIIa.

The new goggles should provide improved protection and wearing comfort combined with undistorted vision, sunlight glare reduction and last but not least improved fit with the flying helmet.

The solution seemed to have been found in June 1940 with the introduction of the Mk IV. It featured a black painted brass frame with inside sponge rubber pads, a polarizing tinted plastic flip shield, large elastic loops - with an adjustable rear leather strap linking the two - to circumvent the type B helmet's ear domes and introduced the soon familiar laminated safety glass split-lenses. The latter came in two parts each and had to be inserted into the hinged compartments of the frame.

The down factors were the heavy weight and bulkiness of the assembly which presented a serious problem during a high-G dogfight. Then the fragility of the flip shield, which by consequence was often discarded by the pilots, and last but not least a lot of time-consuming hand labour in its production.

In an attempt to safe weight the improved Mk IVa mainly used plastic for the frames. Pre-assembled and framed split-enses, which represented another first to be used in future goggle designs later on, facilitated their replacement. The flip shield assembly was also improved. 

The assembly kit included a pair of metal plates to be riveted directly to the flight helmet above the earcups. These were to guide the elastic loops and to support the weight of the goggles without precluding the need for the leather tightening strap across the back.

Overall these new goggles proved to be too fragile and production was halted after a very limited number completed.

The subsequent Mk IVb shown and described here combines the best features of its forerunners, using the same strap arrangement. Returning to brass frames the pre-assembled framed lenses were retained. The flip-down polarizing screen assembly was even further improved, a fact which did not significantly change the pilots' attitude towards them, though. But now there were, as a welcome alternative, tinted lenses available.

Another positive aspect was that with much hand finishing eliminated, mass production was now much faster and was performed by various manufacturers with minor variations. As a consequence the Mk IVb was produced in greater numbers than the previous versions

 

Second Type microphone mask (replica)

Stores Ref. No. -

This variation of the microphone mask is similar in layout and design to the specimen featured with the Type E helmet. Made of slightly different material and shape it represents the type of equipment used during low level missions in tropical areas. A Type 28 carbon microphone (Stores Ref. No. 10A/12572) completes the outfit.